With the 2014 recruiting class officially on the books it's time for the speculation to begin. And by speculation I mean guessing. After all no one knows for sure how a recruiting class is going to to turn out. That's what makes recruiting such an interesting, and sometimes frustrating, part of college football . At the end of the day some recruits pan out and others don't. It's as simple as that.Now having said that I'll also say this. There is something to the various ranking systems. It's not a total crap shoot. After all the teams that tend to compete for BCS berths and National Titles are also those that finish in the top 25 nationally when it comes to recruiting. So when you look down the list of this year's signees and see names like Fred Warner or Devon Blackmon it's easy to get excited.
But what about some of the not so obvious prospects? Guys like Jaterrius Gulley and Matt Bushman. What about those guys? I mean after all they have as much of a chance to succeed at the college level as the next guy. Let us not forget that Dennis Pitta wasn't even in recruiting databases before coming to BYU and former Ute standout Eric Weddle was an underwhelming two star when he came out of high school. Both of these guys had outstanding college careers and now start in the NFL. So whether it's a greater desire to succeed, a growth spurt after high school, or a wealth of opportunity at a certain position its safe to say that there will be overachievers in this year's class.
#1 Jaterrius Gulley - Defensive Lineman | 6-3, 325 lbs | Hoover, Alabama
Nose tackle is not exactly the most glamorous of positions. In fact, it's probably right to next offensive guard on a list of players guaranteed to never to win the Heisman Trophy. But any good football coach will tell you that a successful team begins with the line. After all it is the first "line of defense." Any pun fans in the building? No? Alrighty. Moving on. Gulley was a last second pickup on signing day and a bit of a surprise to be honest. BYU is not known for signing a lot of its players from the South and Gulley came all the way from Hoover, Alabama. Those of you who watched MTV's "Two a Days" will be familiar with the Bucs of Hoover as they are one of the most successful high school football programs in the nation. They have appeared in six straight State Championship games and are fresh of of a 30-0 record and a second straight state title. Not to mention a #1 National Ranking by USA Today.
This is what Gulley is coming from. And its one of the main reasons why I'm so intrigued by him. You don't get to 30-0 at the 6A level in Alabama without being really good. And you don't get to be really good without having really good players. If you're good enough to be a two-year starter for Hoover, you're good enough to make an impact at the next level. Especially if you're carrying a chip on your shoulder. Having only been recruited by two other teams worth mentioning (Louisville, Hawaii) I can't image someone who started on the best high school team in the nation was very impressed with his two-star rating or lack of prospects. Which means he'll be looking to prove himself. And what better system to do that in than Bronco Mendenhall's 3-4 scheme. In Gulley I think Bronco has finally found his Vince Wilfork. A run stuffing beast that is big, and fast enough to cover two holes. Combine that with talent BYU recruited this year at defensive end as well as the talent already in place with players like Bronson Kaufusi and Troy Hinds and I see great things for BYU's defensive line in years to come.
#2 Trey Dye - Wide Receiver | 5-9, 175 lbs | Abilene, TX
With the massive influx of talent at the wide receiver position it's easy to overlook Trey Dye. Don't. This is a guy who will be starting long after Devon Blackmon and Nick Kurtz have graduated. Having previewed his father James Dye in my last article I was interested with the family connection. A 4.4 40-time didn't hurt anything either. Having played in Texas, Trey knows what it's like to go up against the best high school players in the country. And he's already used to running the jet sweep out of the spread formation which is definitely something BYU could use. Think James Rodgers from Oregon State and another wrinkle in an already tricky Cougar offense.
#3 Matt Bushman - Tight End | 6-5, 215 lbs | Tucson, AZ
I wanted to stay away from players going on missions as much as possible with this analysis. Mostly because of the time table involved before any of these guys see serious playing time, but Bushman was simply too impressive. Having been a huge fan of BYU tight ends in the past (Dennis Pitta, Andrew George, Johnny Harline) I've been pretty disappointed with the complete disappearance of the tight end position in recent years. Not wanting to place all of the blame on Robert Anae's shoulders since this is only his second year back, and being familiar with Anae's tight end record in years past, I choose to believe that the only reason Anae has yet to incorporate the tight end position into his offense is because of a lack of a spread specific skill set at the position. Bushman could be exactly the type of player Anae is looking for. Big, strong, and most importantly, fast, Bushman recorded close to 1,600 yards and 26 touchdowns receiving in 2013. As impressive as those stats are his most telling stat might be the 25.13 yards he averaged per catch. Combine that with the fact that teams like Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, and Nevada, who all run some version of the spread, were also recruiting him and I think Bushman could develop into a Jeff Mehl like player in Anae's "go fast, go hard" system.
#4 Ului Lapuaho - Offensive Line | 6-7, 310 lbs | West Valley, UT
Since Damien Mama wound up signing with USC and Ului technically isn't a 2014 recruit I think a lot of people are overlooking him despite having received glowing praise from Bronco in his post signing day, press conference. Described by Bronco as having the look of "maybe an All-Pro NFL player" at the left tackle postion Lapuaho could be a God send for an offense line that struggled with consistency last year. His addition also allows for some shuffling at the various line positions which could help other players move into more natural spots. A lifelong BYU fan and son of former Cougar, Rob Lapuaho, "Lui" played for Hunter High School in West Valley where he was selected as a 5-A first team all state lineman his senior year. The fact that a normally stoic Mendenhall went on to say that Ului is the one player he is most excited about right now should give you a clue as to Lapuaho's potential.
Check out Lapuaho's highlights here.
#5 Kavika Fonua - Athlete | 5-11, 185 lbs | Syracuse, UT
The thing that most impresses me about Fonua is his versatility. Watch his highlight video and you'll see him excelling on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. That's why I have him listed as an athlete even though BYU recruited him as defensive back. There's no telling where he might end up playing over the course of his career. Just ask Michael Alisa. The other thing that stands out is his physicality. On the plays were he is lined up as a defensive back he has no problem "laying the wood." As the players in the video can attest this guy is a hitter. When he's playing running back he has a physical, downhill running style with a surprising burst of speed. In one clip he actually runs over a pile of would be tacklers before out sprinting the rest to the end zone. This is the kind of guy you want on your team. Someone who can make an impact on either side of the ball. Although an Eric Weddle like performance might be out of the question, don't be surprised to see Fonua start on both sides of the ball over the course of his career.